Friday, April 2, 2010


Two weeks ago we highlighted a comics artist of the "Caniff school" - Lee Elias. This time I'd like to briefly review three other artists who were strongly influenced by Caniff -

Caniff's comic strip before 'Terry & the Pirates' was 'Dickie Dare'. 'Dickie' was something of a prototype for 'Terry', wherein a young boy travels with an adult adventurer, meeting villains and beautiful women along the way. After Caniff left, 'Dickie Dare' continued under different artists for 24 years. Fran Matera was one of those, drawing the strip for a few years in the late 1940s. Matera's longest stint was drawing 'Steve Roper and Mike Nomad', taking over the venerable strip in 1985 until its end in 2004. The strip below is an example of 'Mr. Holiday', a strip that only made it a year in the early 50s.
From over five decades later, a 'Steve Roper & Mike Nomad' from its final year.

I've mentioned George Wunder a few times on the blog. To most, Wunder will always be little more than the guy who followed Milton Caniff on 'Terry & the Pirates'. Maybe that's unfair, but I haven't read enough of his work to make an assessment of the quality of his strips. Here are some early George Wunder from Bob Foster's website that shows a Caniff influence. He was offered the 'Terry' gig partly because of his ability to approximate the Caniff style, making it a smooth transition, later morphing into his own style. Lots of folks mistake Wunder's 1950s ad campaign for Canada Dry as Caniff art. Here's original art for a 1951 Terry Sunday by Wunder, followed by a daily from the 60s.

If there was a true 'Caniff school', then Frank Robbins would have graduated with honors. Robbins drew enough like the master to be mistaken for him, though his amped up cartooniness and facial expressions give him a style all his own. He never drew a Caniff-originated strip, but did do four years on 'Scorchy Smith', a feature made famous by Caniff's friend and fellow innovator, Noel Sickles. Robbins left 'Scorchy' to launch his own strip, Johnny Hazard. Hazard, like Smith, was a pilot/troubleshooter, a popular occupation in comics soon to be enjoyed by Steve Canyon. 'Hazard' lasted over 30 more years, ending in '76. The art below is from 2/29/68.

For more Robbins art, check out this action-packed Sunday page from Michael Manley's Draw! blog.


Andyh40 said...

I too, was of the mind that George Wunder was just an over-complicated cartoonist back when I was reading "Terry" in the late 60's until it's demise in 1973. At that time, I had no idea George Evans was ghosting for him. It wasn't until later that I discovered Wunder had a beautifully consistant line that aped Caniff's work in the early days in which he drew the strip. I now love his craftsmanship, and am trying to collect as many of his strips as I can.

Randy @ WCG Comics said...

Someone gave me photocopies of the first full Terry adventure Wunder did immediately following Caniff's departure. It's nice to see the transition. Wunder was clearly trying to stay close to Caniff in that first adventure.

My first exposure to Terry was through Wunder's work when I was a kid in the '60s, in the NY Daily News.

Randy @ WCG Comics said...

BTW, I purchased an original Frank Robbins' Johnny Hazard daily, which I blogged about at

I think Robbins' is a great storyteller and draftsman, and I loved his tight, fast-moving stories.